no caps, please

Posted on by tyler

recently a former student asked me why i never use capital letters, citing possible confusion with punctuation (e.g. comma vs period) which could be clarified if caps were used. here's how i replied, in case you care at all...

i guess at small sizes periods and commas could be mistaken, but you also have the clues of sentence construction. for example, when i say "for example", you know to expect an example to follow after the pause. you wouldn't expect a period, and therefore, an incomplete sentence.

anyway, a typeface should be well designed enough to distinguish those things when used at the appropriate size.

my reasons for all lower case, simplified

1) only use one symbol to represent one sound (see bradbury thompson's alphabet 26)
2) fewer symbols simplify the alphabet and eliminate unnecessary / redundant forms.
3) a period or other punctuation and a space are enough to signal the end of a sentence. no need to have a cap as well.
4) getting all anarcho-theoretical, caps are hierarchical and dominant over lower-case letters. an all lower-case alphabet is more egalitarian.
5) not hitting the shift key while typing eliminates extra keystrokes, thought, and time.

numbers one through four can be refuted pretty easily however.
1) there are often multiple symbols to represent all kinds of things, and we learn those just fine. (still doesn't make it efficient though)
2) simple is good, but if multiple forms are easy to learn, why not have them for more flexibility and variety in our alphabet? sometimes all caps makes a nice designerly shape and we love to have options when making typographic form.
3) sometimes when reading quickly belts and suspenders work very well to hold the pants up.
4) how nit-picky should one get when desiring to abolish hierarchy and dominance? (well, my stock and trade is the alphabet so if i design typefaces, i'll do it according to my values, not tradition)

the end.